Herniated Disc

Herniated Disc

What is a Herniated Disc?

In between the vertebrae of the spine are cushions called discs. Theses discs contain an inner core, called the nucleus pulposus, and an outer wall, called the annulus fibrosis. If the annulus degenerates or tears, the nucleus can seep into the annulus and cause the disc to bulge and protrude. This bulging disc may press against nerves and cause pain. When the inner core pushes through the annulus fibrosis, it's called a herniated disc. The tear in the annulus fibrosis created by this bulging of the inner core causes back pain. That pain may spread to a different area of the body if the now protruding disc is putting pressure on a spinal nerve.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The main symptom of a herniated disc is sharp and acute pain, often described as a "deep pain," which increases in severity as it moves down the affected leg. Pain onset may occur suddenly, or be preceded by a snapping or tearing sensation in the spine. This sensation may be attributed to the annulus fibrosis suddenly tearing.

There is often a limited range of motion present in patients with herniated discs, and patients will often lean to one side when bending over. Walking will often be painful, with patients attempting to alter their gait by straightening the affected leg to avoid putting too much weight on it.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is often used to diagnose a herniated disc. CT scans are also helpful for providing better images of the source of pressure if a nerve root is being pressed upon by the herniated disc.


Rest, medication and physical therapy are usually successful when treating a herniated disc. Medications like anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and muscle relaxants may be prescribed to help with pressure and pain.

Surgery is not often needed for a herniated disc, but if a patient doesn't respond to rest, physical therapy and medications over a long period of time, surgery may be recommended.

Risks and Benefits

Failure to take preventive measures for any spinal condition may result in a further aggravated condition. Surgical measures for advanced cases may give relief from extremity pain. The risks involved with surgery are common - infection, blood loss, damage to nerves and spine - and some specific to your treatment. This material is intended to give the patient an overview of surgical procedures and treatments and is not intended to replace the advice and guidance of a physician. Always consult with your doctor about the particular risks and benefits of your treatment.

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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Herniated Disc

Herniated Disc

You may be a candidate for Endoscopic Discectomy

Herniated Disc

If you’re suffering from a herniated disc, you’re not alone. Many men and women experience a herniation at some point in their lifetime, often without realizing it until the appearance of persistent and palpable symptoms. Becoming well informed about your condition is the first step toward finding a potential treatment and resuming a pain-free life. We’re here to help!

So, what precisely are the “discs” causing you so much trouble? Discs are shock absorbers located between vertebrae that cushion the spinal column and protect the spine from everyday strain. Made from a hard outer layer known as the annulus and a soft, liquid-like material known as the nucleus, discs usually do us a whole lot of good. Occasionally, however, a tear or weakness in a disc’s outer layer allows the fluidic inner layer to leak into the spinal canal. As a result, additional pressure is placed on local nerves, causing pain, discomfort and other complications. This ailment is known as a herniation, or a slipped or ruptured disc.

Herniated Disc Symptoms

Symptoms of a herniated disc vary widely and are determined by where the problem area is located within the spine. Sometimes, patients may exhibit no outward signs of a ruptured disc at all. When the disc begins to strain a nearby nerve, however, typical symptoms called “Sciatica” but additional symptoms include:

  • Dull, achy pain or sharp, intense pain
  • Muscle tightness and cramping
  • Radiating pain through the down the legs
  • Tingling sensations through the legs or down the foot
  •  Weakness in the affected area and limbs
  •  Lower back pain that gets worse when you sit, cough or sneeze

Herniated Disc Causes

If you have any of the above indicators, you may be bearing a herniated disc. Sometimes, patients can remember the precise moment when the damage most likely occurred; others are at a loss to understand how they could have contracted such a problem. The most common causes of a slipped disc are the following:

  • Degenerative disc disease

This complication occurs when the discs in the spine lose volume over time and do not properly absorb shocks or allow the spine to flex and twist. Weak discs are more likely to rupture.

  • Sudden trauma or accident

Occasionally, an abrupt and unexpected injury can cause a slipped disc when the body is forced to contort or external forces place unbearable pressure upon the spine.

  • Frequent, improper movements or lifting

When you lift things incorrectly by bending (instead of squatting) or try to carry heavy loads beyond your capacity, you may herniated a disc.

Certain factors can increase your likelihood of getting a herniation, such as overweight, which places extra stress on the discs in your lower back. Some people also inherit a genetic predisposition to slipped discs or have an occupation where repetitive, strenuous motions raise their chances of harm. Additionally, if you are a smoker, you are also at risk for herniated discs.

Herniated Disc Non-Surgical Treatment Options

There are many methods available to treat disc ruptures. Depending on the location and severity of your injury, you may consider:

  • Therapy

Often, licensed physical therapists can teach you positions and exercises to alleviate herniated disc pain. By strengthening the back and abdominal muscles, you may relieve some of the strain on the ruptured disc and minimize inflammation. Traction, electrical stimulation and short-term bracing may also improve your condition. “Hot and cold” therapy, where heating and cooling elements are applied to the affected area, is often utilized by many professionals as well. You can carry out this method by taking hot showers or baths and using ice packs or heating pads.

  • Medication

Some prescription and over-the-counter medications may temporarily minimize the discomfort caused by herniated discs. Before you implement either, however, speak with your doctor. Certain medications can make your condition worse and may lead to other serious consequences.

  • Lifestyle changes

By mindfully approaching your everyday life, you can prevent herniated discs and encourage those you already have toward healing. Bed rest is not recommended. Do not participate in intense exercise, particularly heavy lifting, if there is acute back pain. Get plenty of sleep. Many men and women are able to reduce the pressure on their back through intentional yoga practice.

Lumbar Herniated Disc Microspine & Minimally Invasive Treatment Options

If the above treatments do not provide permanent respite from the symptoms of your herniated disc, Microspine Endoscopic discectomy may be required. Dr. T will work with you to create a customized treatment plan based on your individual preferences and needs. Microspine & Minimally invasive procedures require only a small incision and generally lead to a much shorter recovery time than traditional open surgery, because they place less trauma upon muscles and tissues surrounding the affected area.

Our highly trained physicians use advanced techniques to treat slipped discs and degenerative disc disease. Here are just a few of the minimally invasive procedures we perform:

This is the most advanced technique that can be done outpatient under general anesthesia and sometimes under sedation (twilight). The surgery is performed through a 1-cm incision (about size of a pen). Dr. T utilized high definition/high magnification scope and special tools to shrink, and trim the pathological disc in order to relieve pressure on surrounding nerve roots. The disc wall is then sealed to prevent further leakage and continuing pain. The stable portion that still function as a cushion in the center will be left intact; thus no fusion, screws/rods, and hardware needed.

This is the most advanced technique that can be done outpatient under general anesthesia in healthy patients. The indications are failed prior surgeries, severe collapsed disc, and unstable spine. 

When compared with traditional open operations, our Microspine & Minimally Invasive technique yield:

  • Shortened recovery times that allow patients to return to work, school and other daily activities faster
  • Less post-operative pain
  •  A reduced risk of scarring and blood loss
  •  Minor trauma to surrounding tissues, leaving the majority of muscle unaffected
  •  Fewer potential complications

We look forward to helping you feel better, faster!